By Patrick Straub Explore Big Sky Fishing Columnist
The gift-giving season is upon us. Among Christmas strolls, tree cuttings, office
holiday parties, occasional early season powder days, and a few hours on the
stream, many of us spend time finding gifts for the important people in our lives.
Here’s a little help for those who want to buy angling-centric gifts, but know little
about fly fishing and what will help us enjoy it even more.
The gift of gear. With some due diligence, finding the gear your angler wants is
easy, it just takes a little recon. Either ask friends in secret, or better yet, find a
convenient time to visit a local fly shop together and pay attention. This can be hard
if you typically don’t visit fly shops as a team. The excuse of a mutual “gift-finding
mission for friends” is a good one. Once in the shop, observe your angler. If he or
she spends a good bit of time checking out a new wader model or the hot new rod
… hint, hint.
If you don’t have the time for a recon mission, find your angler’s gear stash. Make
some notes – models of rods and reels, waders, boots, rain jackets, fly boxes, etc. –
enough to get a rough idea of the items’ conditions. Next, call your local fly shop for
advice on what to purchase as a gift. The more information about their current gear
situation you can obtain, the easier it will be for the shop folks to assist you. Have a
budget in mind, enjoy the purchase, and be ready to be Santa of the Year.
Instruction and knowledge. Money spent on instruction is never misspent. Our
area is home to dozens of fantastic guides and outfitters. Your angler will learn
something new about our local waters and gain some valuable personal time with a
guide or outfitter who can assist with his or her fishing. For anglers who live here
but who don’t fish as much as they’d like, spending a day or two with a local guide
gives them a resource down the road.
Travel. One of my go-to Key West guides once told me – after he and I spent a
fruitless day of pursuing permit – “At least the fish we pursue live in beautiful
places.” That certainly rings true here in Big Sky, and we’re very fortunate to live in
this beautiful place. But sometimes it’s nice to get out of town once in a while.
If the angler in your life peruses websites for far-off fly-fishing destinations, or even
nearby ones such as Montana’s Smith River canyon, see if you can make it happen.
Fishing travel is not cheap, but the memories last. My wife and I reminisce often
about the first bonefishing trip we took together, and a photo of our sun-tanned
toes in the foreground, the setting Bahamian sun behind, hangs in our bedroom. On
the day we took that picture, we each caught 10-pound-plus bonefish and went to
bed punch-drunk and giddy. Time to fish. As our lives become more hustled with jobs, kids and responsibilities,
time simply may be the best gift of all. Any way you choose to do it – a gift
certificate for a fishing weekend or a coupon book of “get out of the house to go
fish” cards – acknowledging your angler and giving him or her time to fish is a
Hopefully, gift giving is enjoyable and not burdensome. For the angler in your life,
the challenge may lie in learning what he or she really needs or wants, as is the
case in my house, where things usually unfold like this:
“What do you want for Christmas this year?” my wife asks.
“Nothing really,” I respond. “Just time with you and the family. I’ve got most
everything I need.”
But there are a few more things on my wish list in addition to family time, like a
week in Mexico chasing tarpon out of Campeche, and a week pursuing steelhead in
the coastal streams of southeast Alaska. After that the Seychelles to hunt Giant
Trevally, with a jaunt to New Zealand to sight-fish trophy brown trout, rounding out
the trip by adding a stop-over in Chilean Patagonia where two-foot browns eat
hoppers all day long on poorly presented drifts…
Pat Straub is the author of six books, including The Frugal Fly Fisher, Montana On
The Fly, and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Fly Fishing. He and his
wife own Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky.